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Leading California's Zero Energy Homebuilding Efforts

Posted by Brandon De Young on September 07, 2017
Leading California's Zero Energy Homebuilding Efforts
De Young EnVision Zero Energy infographic.

In 2008, California set a bold new goal for its homebuilders. The California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan makes it clear that the state intends for all new homes to be Zero Energy homes in the future. Nine years later, De Young Properties is putting that plan into action.

Last month, De Young Properties and project collaborators Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), and BIRAenergy, announced De Young EnVision, the first Zero Energy home community in Central California and largest to be developed in the State. Located in Clovis, De Young EnVision will include 36 grid-connected homes designed with the potential to produce as much clean energy as they consume in a year.

To watch a video of our road map to Zero Energy and to learn more about this community, click here.

Why

Our company’s mission is simple: To improve the lives of families in Central California, to do right by the environment, and to inspire others to do the same. Knowing that Zero Energy homes can accomplish all three, De Young Properties has been building energy efficient homes for the last decade in an effort to reach this goal of Zero Energy.

It all started in 2009 when we incorporated De Young EnergySmart™ into our homes. These were energy efficient features that allowed our homebuyers to save money on their energy bills while also living more healthy and comfortably, and reduced their negative impact on the environment, of course. This was just the beginning, though.

From here, we looked towards Zero Electric, which we were able to achieve in 2011. Next was a full Zero Energy home, which we built in 2013 as a concept home to test construction techniques and to monitor real-world performance. To continue our building design advancements, we built another Zero Energy home in 2017. From there, we were ready for a full community.

About The Homes

All De Young Properties SmartHomes are already very energy efficient. We combine EnergySmart™ and ControlSmart features to optimize efficiency and comfort. Through this building technology our floorplans can reach as low as 20 on the California Energy Commission’s Energy Design Rating scale. To achieve Zero Energy, however, we needed to take efficiency and solar up another level.

To do so, we have worked closely with our collaborators so that each De Young EnVision floorplan is first, designed as a computer energy model, which allows our building science team to optimize home energy consumption and solar production.

The homes use De Young EnergySmart™ features, such as heat pump water heaters that harvest energy by extracting heat from the ambient air around the unit (literally pulling energy out of thin air!), a performance sealed attic, 2x6 advanced framed walls, and ample formaldehyde-free insulation with airtight construction, among other energy efficient features.

The homes also include a solar power system designed with the potential to produce enough energy to bring net annual energy consumption to zero. This simple “production and consumption” formula is guided by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and industry-accepted methodology and energy simulation software to predict a home’s annual energy consumption, as well as calculate how much solar must be installed to produce an equivalent amount of clean energy. Homeowner energy consumption practices are also paramount in achieving Zero Energy status as designed by De Young's building science team.

About The Research 

Over the next several years, De Young Properties and EPRI researchers will monitor energy usage and solar production, among other performance attributes, of the EnVision homes to learn how they can continue to improve Zero Energy home design.

In addition, the findings will further inform utilities and other development stakeholders how to more seamlessly integrate these types of homes into the electric grid.

What's Next?

De Young EnVision is not the end for our plans for Zero Energy building. This is only the first step in our pursuit to educate and inspire our community about the importance of Zero Energy homes and communities like EnVision.

We believe that understanding energy efficiency is the responsibility of all homebuilders and homeowners. With this in mind, we are encouraging others to invest not just in energy efficiency, but also in educational programs that support the study of engineering research and development that will help to maximize energy efficient homebuilding for tomorrow’s homebuilders.

For us, De Young EnVision represents the future of homebuilding. When we constructed our first Zero Electric home in 2011, we knew that was just the beginning of our forward-thinking energy vision. Our goal has always been to build better homes for our homeowners, the community, and the environment. With our extensive team of collaborators, the EnVision community has allowed us to reach that goal by building a Zero Energy community with a call-to-action for what homebuilders can do now to positively impact generations to come.

 

Brandon De Young is Executive Vice President at De Young Properties and the in-house energy guru.

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